I’ve been listening to, and reading opinions about Elena Kagan for a couple of days now. I’ve done a good amount of research in an effort to learn more about her, and I have a conclusion; Anyone that has an opinion about this woman is making assumptions based on what they want her to be.
She is as close to a blank slate as a person that is qualified for this job can be.
She’s definitely qualified for the position. Don’t let anyone tell you that she’s not qualified because she’s never sat on a bench. Two ( Rehnquist and Warren) of our last four Chief Justices had no judicial experience when they were nominated to the court. John Roberts only had two years experience on the bench when he was nominated. Forty of the one hundred and eleven supreme court justices that we’ve had in our history, had no judicial experience prior to serving on the court. She’s currently serving as our Solicitor General. She’s worked as a law professor, an associate at a giant law firm, assistant white house council during the Clinton administration, and clerked for Thurgood Marshall. She’s qualified.
Now that we’ve established that, on to her “temperament”. Liberals don’t think she’s liberal enough. Republicans think she’s a flaming liberal (and a lesbian). So who’s got it right? There’s really no way to tell. On one hand, she’s worked for some very liberal judges (Mikva and Marshall) and politicians (she was an adviser on the failed Dukakis presidential campaign). Does that mean she’s a liberal? Not necessarily. Rahm Emanuel has always worked within the democratic party. Is anyone under the illusion that he’s a liberal? She worked in the Clinton white house which, in my opinion, is neither an indication of liberalism nor conservatism, although it does support corporatism! And then there’s that brief period when she worked as a paid adviser to Goldman Sachs. Does this point to her being a conservative? Not really, but it does indicate that she doesn’t find Goldman morally objectionable enough to refuse to do business with them.
On the issue of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, she did (briefly) deny military recruiters access to the main recruitment office during her tenure at Harvard (she did not cut off their access to students in any other way), but during her confirmation hearings in 2009 she pledged to defend the Solomon Amendment, which balances out her actions at Harvard. Her objection to the military recruiters was actually intellectually sound. She asserted that she wouldn’t allow any other organization that practiced discrimination to use the recruitment office so she didn’t feel that military recruiters should get special treatment. This was by no means an emotional perspective.
That’s pretty much all we have to go on with Elena Kagan. She seems to have spent her whole career almost methodically ensuring that she remains a blank slate. It seems as if she’s spent her entire career preparing for a supreme court nomination hearing. Does that make her shrewd? Absolutely. Does it make her calculating? That would be a matter of opinion.
The one thing I’m certain of, is that the far right is never going to find actual evidence to support their assertions that she’s gay. Whether she is or not is really moot to me and any other rational human, but I’m positive that assaulting her with those assertions will be the path that the far right will take. I’m equally certain that they will never find any evidence to support their assertions because she has been so methodical in maintaining her “blankness”. There’s absolutely no chance that she’s left any evidence of gayness out there to sink her nomination.
The truth is that we simply don’t know what we’re going to get when she becomes a supreme court justice. I say when, because she’s almost assured a confirmation. I have no doubt that Obama knows what he’s getting since they have a personal relationship that goes back many years. But since we don’t really know what Obama is, given his persistent moderation, we don’t know what he’s looking for in a supreme court justice.
The bottom line is that anyone that has an opinion about her temperament is basing that opinion on pure conjecture.
Personally, I would liked to have seen a more overtly liberal nominee to balance out the corporatist cabal we have in Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. My ideal court would consist of four conservatives, four liberals, and one free thinker that can be persuaded. Since we don’t have that right now, I would have preferred the nomination of George Carlin’s ghost to this vacancy!
But much to my dismay, we got Elena Kagan. Do I oppose her? I really have no reason to. Do I support her? I really have no reason to. She truly is a blank slate, and I’m not projecting anything onto her.